Race Reports - April 2019

14/04/2019 - Paris Marathon

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Race Report by Les Brown

I’m more surprised than anyone to be writing this event report. The reason being that I didn’t see it coming. Almost an accidental marathon I guess. I’ll explain; Many months ago, friends Kim and Simon had this idea to run the Paris Marathon and I ended up making the entries for them both together with my ever patient partner Helen. At the time I thought heck, I’ll be there anyway so just in case I’ll enter too. After all, I may regret not entering and entries are going super-fast so now or never. In reality, even then I doubted I would run it as I had decided that the previous Brighton Marathon would be my last. I’m no natural runner and in my eyes, respect is due to that distance even if others, and I’ll mention no names, find it relatively easy.

Fast forward a few months and I’m experiencing some issues with a knee injury. This further endorsed my inner thoughts that I wouldn’t be running that event. I jealously watched Helen and Kim commit to serious training and Simon knocking out ultras with apparent ease. Meanwhile, my own running consisted of a handful of parkruns and slow club sessions. No training as such as I had nothing to train for.

The Paris marathon is a massive event. At around 60,000 runners it’s larger than London. We’d taken the opportunity to make it a five day trip, and I had for quite a while clarified that I was ‘along for the ride’ and would be spectating. Having decided to not run the event I did consider running the 5K fun run they offer the day before. At least that way I can say I ran in Paris. One of the best bits of any event for me is the build-up. I just love the buzz of being in the start pen, shoulder to shoulder with all sorts of runners, some better and some worse than myself but all there for the fun of it. So I had this crazy idea that if I’m prepared to run 5k I might as well enjoy the buzz of the real thing and run the first 5k of the actual marathon. I sheepishly announced my cunning plan and considered that my target was going to be the first patisserie with somewhere to sit to enjoy the spectacle.

Come the day, up bright and early to catch the metro to start at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Ridiculously early in fact as Simon has a start time over an hour and a half ahead of ours and it was dark and literally freezing! We arrived in time to see the Elites running off followed by numerous massive waves of runners and some while later there was Simon! On his way, comfortably winding his way through the pack already with a target of 3h 5mins to better, the good for age time for next year’s London race.

Having completed the bag drop we had ages to wait and it was bitterly cold! Comical to see runners crammed over the Metro grills to catch the blasts of warm air but luckily soon enough it was our turn to enter the corral. In front, the start gantry was so far away it was only just possible to see it and there were as many people behind me as in front!! I was now identifying myself as probably the only one there NOT intending to run the marathon. I confessed to anyone with a GBR bib that I was going for a coffee around the next corner and even then I can honestly say that was my firm intent. They thought I was joking but I wasn’t. And then someone said we were off!! Well, in actual fact it took nearly twenty minutes from then to go over the start pads, shuffling along like penguins trying to keep warm. I’d never seen so many runners. I pressed ‘Start’ on my watch and it died – WTF! It’s been charged all night! Desperately tried Strava on my phone and that was useless as it just kept crashing. Depressed now, I set off trailing Helen and Kim. It wasn’t long before Kim crept ahead of Helen and I, but not surprising considering how well she’d been running of late. Helen set a nice pace for herself and settled in for the long haul. I’m running at a slightly uncomfortable pace now, driven by the runners around me and the baying crowd, and looking for that patisserie! I’m surprised some good while later to see that Helen is still in sight, glimpsing her occasionally through the throng. And on we go, my annoyance that my watch let me down growing with every step. The crowd so far have been fantastic, shouting out encouragements in the traditional fashion, albeit in French of course;  Allez, allez!! Great to see the Pompiers who had extended their fire escape ladders horizontally over the road to shout from just over our heads! At this stage I was actually pleased with how it was going, just like a parkrun, so far so good! Strangely I still had the 5hr pacers within arm’s reach but I was now looking for an opportunity to bail out. I was flagging already. I could still say I’d run Paris but there was a catch – now without my watch or Strava, who would ever know? This fact gnawed away for the next couple of miles and it slowly dawned that the only way I could prove I’d done it now was if I had the medal!! So that was it then, committed. I can be unreasonably determined at times and one of those times was now!

The Paris Marathon route is nice. A meandering trail through the heart of the city, passing a number of iconic landmarks, notably the Eiffel Tower. We all know it’s big yet I found later that Simon didn’t see it, because he was obviously going too fast. I glanced occasionally at Facebook (like you do) and saw that when I was not half way round Simon had finished. A truly awe inspiring 3hr 7mins, tragically two minutes short of the London GFA target but a new PB anyway. And there is always next year so Simon is good with that. And who wouldn’t be? For a large part of the route it tracks alongside the river Seine. By this time I regret that the crowds and other runners had started to thin and I was in danger of getting lonely. I had passed and then been overtaken by a young lady for a mile or two around now and I used her as a pacer. She wasn’t a fast runner but she kept at it. When I walked I managed to speed walk and just about stay with her. When she walked, I ran past. It was hard and by now the drinks stations were packing up and I needed food! I hadn’t planned to run so hadn’t fuelled up or brought anything appropriate. My tank was empty and I was parched. Luckily, I managed to beg a bottle from one of the packed lorries and even found bananas! I was saved!! It turned out that Angie was running her first marathon and hailed from Texas. We agreed we were in this together now and tracked that green line as if our lives depended on it. She had her watch and annoyingly counted down the miles in ever decreasing increments. Inevitably we got nearer and then I said only two parkruns from here. It meant nothing to her, she’d never even heard of a parkrun.

I realised that by now, both Helen and Kim would have been long finished and with Simon must have been wondering where the hell I was. But this was all about me now and while I felt bad about keeping them waiting there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Kim had stormed in at an impressive time of 4h 34m and Helen too with an envious time of 5H 17m. Absolutely fantastic of them both. And now I had them hanging about, searching and waiting...and waiting. Kim, bless her, even went to the bag drop and for the want of other explanation asked if anyone had seen “mon père”!

While my progress had been slow, it was interesting that I still managed to overtake others. Some were struggling with injuries in the latter stages and despite that clearly hanging on to hobble and limp their way to the finish. It’s wonderful to see that determination in people and even I could offer encouragement.

Finally, the end in sight! It’s obligatory of course to make sure you actually run the last bit from as far out as possible. After all, wouldn’t want people to think we’d walked it! Being the gent I am I let Angie run through ahead and then it was my turn. No great fanfares, no big crowd, no photographers even but there were marshals holding out the medal lanyards for us to duck through. I’d made it!! Surprised the hell out of me.

No official time as the French turn off the chip timing at 6hrs which I think is harsh!! Knowing that Kim and Helen started with me and the time when I finished I know that I managed 6hrs 26mins. I’ll settle for that!

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28/04/2019 - London Marathon

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Race Report by Billy Counter

Having the incredibly good fortune of winning the solitary club spot to represent the Coastal Striders, I was delighted to be asked to conjure up a race report for this year's London Marathon, so hold on to your hats and here we go...

The lead up to the event started with a nice relaxing train journey to the expo at the ExCel building, alongside myself were my ever-supportive partner Lucy, plus Greg and Katie Shingles. As we arrived we could sense an air of excitement amongst the hundreds of other participants picking up their race packs and timing chips, as they posed gleefully for their pre-race photos and sampled the many goods on offer.

After bumping into Julie and Colin Sharp at the expo, we managed a quick whistle-stop tour of the Cancer Research and Macmillan stalls to introduce ourselves to our respective charities before we retired to our hotels to try and conserve as much energy as possible for the main event.

As dawn broke on the morning of the race day, I awoke at 6am to allow myself plenty of time to get ready and watched in dismay as Lucy helped herself to a full English breakfast, fruit salad and toast! For me, it was to be toasted cinnamon bagels with honey and SIS energy bars. The bacon would have to wait this time, as I couldn't risk any kind of stomach issues.

I slipped on the new prototype of the club shirt adorned with my race number - 23600. It seemed lighter, albeit slightly large and of a different shade of orange but it felt so much better than the standard material. As I tied my timing chip to my shoes, I began to visualise the race in my head:  today is the day, the culmination of all those months, no, YEARS of training. Time to put everything you've learned into this one, I thought, as we set off to Blackheath on the DLR.

The weather was absolutely perfect for running and Blackheath common was buzzing with a hive of activity. We had arranged to meet a bunch of the crazier Coasties who had run the marathon backwards, as part of the Nohtaram Nodnol initiative during the night. As we stood by the tea hut waiting for them to appear, we noticed the huge police presence enjoying their tea and bacon butties.. Mmmm.. Not yet, I thought. Patience is a virtue!

Suddenly they appeared, a group of tired but happy, smiling faces revelling in their achievement. A massive congratulations to Simon, Kim, Lee, Tim, John, Janet, James, Julie and Mel for managing to complete it in poor lighting with no sleep - an impressive feat in itself! After a quick hug and a picture, they wished us well as we set off for the start lines...

As we entered the starting corrals, we were accosted by not one, but three different photographers. I took the opportunity to give it my all and unleashed my best side to their lenses. In doing so, I knew that at least one of my race photos would look appealing. Smart move I thought as I chuckled inwardly.

The countdown began and everyone's attention turned to the start of the race on the big screen that illuminated the far end of the green. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 went the chorus of cheers as we witnessed Eliud, Callum, Mo and the likes scream off with breakneck acceleration after Andy Murray had started the race. This was it, not long now. Everyone was looking around in anticipation as they knew it would soon be their turn to shine.

Some 40 minutes later, we were finally through the start. I had met up with the lovely Julie and Miranda and we all set off together holding hands in a Coastie clothesline formation, daring people to stand in our way.

The first 6 miles went by in a flash as we ran through Charlton and Woolwich to Greenwich. This was easy - a standard club run we mused before Julie got caught short and had to make a stop for the portaloos. Miranda had agreed to run with Julie beforehand so she held back and waited as I considered my options. I didn't need the toilet yet, but I knew I would later, so I thought maybe they would catch me up, as I bid them farewell and continued the mission solo.

Upon viewing the iconic Cutty Sark, I was reminded of the Vitality Big Half which had concluded there only a few weeks earlier; and how it had been my dramatic return to running after 5 weeks out with a broken foot. The crowds were just as intense, if not more today I thought, as I held my pace as consistently as I could.

Two energy gels and a bottle of water later and I had zoomed through Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, my watch had displayed an alert from Lucy that the support crew were just over Tower Bridge with a Finding Nemo flag as a marker. Not long now until I could see some familiar faces!

Running over Tower Bridge was unlike any other running experience I have previously had, the crowds were going wild and a huge surge of energy suddenly coursed through my veins. I ran along the left side of the road as instructed and sure enough, there they were - the almighty Coastie Support Team consisting of the lunatics that had run the course through the night backwards and the other legends including Darren, Kate, Mark, Jenny, Kerry, Lorna, Tim, Sarah and Gary. The Finding Nemo balloon shining like a beacon to me. I couldn't stop though, my new-found energy urging me on to a new personal best. A hug and kiss for Lucy, and a smile and a wave to the rest were all I could muster up as I passed them. Halfway there! Onwards and upwards I thought.

At this point I was approached by someone shouting, “Hey you're a Coastie right?” It was a new club member that introduced himself as Kevin. We ran for a bit together, navigating the stream of runners around us who appeared to be fatiguing early. It was a pleasurable distraction for a short while before he bid me adieu, as I was intent on quickening my pace even further.

The next few miles were a blur, as the crowds cheered us through Shadwell, Limehouse and the quays to Canary Wharf. The huge buildings towering over us with an air of intimidation. Not much further to go now I thought, this is definitely PB material, I'm in it to win it today!!

Then it struck...

A niggling pain in my stomach...

Had I been holding off going to the toilet for too long? Had I eaten too many gels? Drunk too much water? Should I have avoided the new Lucozade jelly beans? Was it the lack of bacon in the morning? Whatever it was, it wasn't going away. The cramps gradually worsened until I could bear it no longer. I conceded and stopped to queue at a portaloo. Why now, it was mile 20 for heaven's sake! Just one more hour and it would all be over and I could bask in the glory of that personal best I was so looking forward to.

3 minutes and a radioactive, tutti-frutti coloured pee later and I set back off. Unfortunately, the stop had caused my muscles to seize up and I couldn't fall back into my previous stride. I was no longer the rampant gazelle that I had considered myself just a short while before, but more akin to a sloth with a dodgy ticker, on crutches.

At this point, my phone buzzed and Lucy, somehow sensing my troubles, was on the line to inform me that she was waiting just after Blackfriars bridge at mile 24. With a determined grimace, I told myself to man up and get the job done. Only 3 more miles and I could see her lovely, smiley face. That would be the lift I needed!

Three miles of hell followed as the audience bellowed at me – “Come on Billy!! Come on Billy - You can do it!!!” Each cheer serving as a temporary nitrous injection to my flagging demeanour, willing me towards the ultimate goal.

And there she was, as promised - the lovely Lucy in all her glory with her infinite words of wisdom. Her radiant smile and encouraging phrases giving me a breath of new life, as she ran alongside me on the side of the road with the crowds. I half expected her to run into a lamp post or trip over someone as she didn't take her eyes off me between miles 24 and 25. This was exactly what I needed to see it through to the end though. One mile left and I kicked into survival mode as I quickened the pace towards glory.

This was it, the home stretch! I passed Embankment and Westminster with relative ease before the final straight to the home of the Queen and the finish. This was my chance, the money shot! I opened my stride and gave it every ounce of strength I had left to power through to the finish line, overtaking the poor souls who didn't have it left in them.

I had done it! Marathon number 5 completed and 2 in 2 weeks after completing Brighton a fortnight previously. I glanced down at my watch, had I set that PB?? Had I hell.. I was 3 minutes over at 4:58 but I convinced myself that the dodging through crowds and the toilet stop had compensated for that, I was still a winner in my own eyes and besides, now I have a target of 4:30 for next year haha!

After I received my medal and finishers shirt, I had a chance to reflect on what was truly one of the most remarkable endurance events in the world. London Marathon is something special. If you ever get the opportunity to partake, I would wholeheartedly recommend it and I cannot thank the Coastal Striders enough for giving me the chance to do so, along with the love, support and encouragement that the club provides to see us grow into the best we can possibly be! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

A massive well done and congratulations to the following who took part. You are all absolute superstars and you've done the club proud:

Becca Brisley - 5:06

Britt Steine - 5:53

Charlie White - 4:21

Debbie Foreman - 7:31

Frazer Marsh - 4:24

Greg Shingles - 4:27

Ian Dodds - 4:58

Julie Sharp - 5:08

Kevin Wehrly - 5:01

Louise Reed - 6:37

Miranda Mallery - 5:08

Rob Gray - 3:27

Simon Clayton - 4:50

Warren Chambers - 5:13

Nicola Richmond - 6:28

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14/04/2019 - Brighton Marathon

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Captain's Race Report by Darren Sayer & Lorna Munday

Well another year, another Brighton Marathon and another team of Coasties headed to Brighton to take on the challenge.

We had quite a mixed bag of Coasties this year some being there very first Marathon, some that had done Marathons before but not on this scale, some using it as their final long run before London and others who had pounded the streets of Brighton in previous years.

The day started very cold think it was around -3 when we all set off for Preston Park, we had arranged for the Traditional Coastie photo outside the Travelodge, slowly one by one the Orange tops started to appear, seemed to be quite a popular place for the pre marathon photos as we also bumped into our friends from SVN and the Illegal’s.

As time was ticking on the excitement was growing and growing, We all walked over to see our fellow Coastie 10k runners off which left us valuable time for the last minute wee stops and to get all of our bags into the baggage drops.

About 9:30 we all wished each other good luck and headed to our relative Start Corrals, race start this year was at a slightly later time of 9:45, race conditions were almost perfect, 8 degrees and a gentle Breeze not the sweltering heatwave like to has been in previous years, We was off with the Red Corral starting first followed be the Blue, Yellow, Pink and then Green.

The course did a loop of Preston park first before heading down into the town, passing the Brighton Pavilion before heading up the high street to the seafront where we was greeted by the Scooter and Mini Rally, the course took us out past the Brighton Marina to the turnaround point in Ovingdean, the course then headed back towards the pier where the crowds had now grown and the atmosphere was absolutely awesome. We then headed out towards the power station, in previous years this was quite a lonely place but this year they had introduced a couple of bands to lift everyone’s spirits, however on the turn point the gentle breeze that was at the start had turned into quite a strong headwind which made the last 6 miles quite hard going. The last mile and a half you joined the main road again where the crowd support was fantastic, you then went past the pier where you then made that final last turn where you could now see that amazing finish line in your sights, hairs on the back of your neck time, there cannot be very many people who don’t get quite emotional on that final stretch to the finish knowing that they have completed the Brighton Marathon.

Our first Male Coastie home was Mark Savage with a time of 3:22:45 and his first ever marathon.

Our first Female Coastie home was Samantha Knight with a time of 3:38:52 and her first ever marathon and also qualifying for London marathons good for age.

And a huge well done to each and every one of you that completed the Brighton Marathon, I know you had all put countless hours of training, Blood sweat and tears in for this moment and it all paid off, you are all Awesome and makes us proud to be Coasties.

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Race Report by Maggie Lai

What do most people do to celebrate a milestone birthday, a cruise, exotic holiday, sky dive or purchase a new car. For me I set myself a challenge to run a Marathon.

In April 2018 I signed up for Brighton, not knowing what to expect or what it actually entails (training wise). I have only ever competed in less than 5, 5km races, was never a runner and hated running. Why did I even think of this mad idea in the first place, it suddenly dawned on me when 2nd Sept 2018 approached and it was the start of my training plan.

Commitment was a massive issue as I sacrificed my Sundays taking and watching my kids play football. Bev put me in touch with Coastal Striders and here my journey began. I admit it was horrible forcing myself out the house, running in the cold, wet conditions. I did feel guilty as was always the slowest in the field and found myself apologising. That's what the club is all about, everyone regrouping, being supportive and encouraging.

So running 3 sessions every Sunday with the club, before I knew it, the miles were clocking up week in, week out and soon race day was here. I was feeling nervous, butterflies in my stomach, the thought of the race, I did have a wobble, but that is a normal feeling.

Sunday 14th April 2019, there I was at the start line, waiting for the gun time to sound and then I was off. Taking the views of the scenic route and hearing the crowds shout your name and willing you to go, when all you want to do is give up is the push you need, they were amazing, as were the coasties who passed by. Six hours had flown by and I could see the finishing line ahead.

Friends and family were waiting in the cold, cheering me and suddenly I heard the commentator call my name, I had finally ran and finished a Marathon. 26.2 miles of hard graft, the emotions, empowerment, satisfaction, amazing achievement that one has conquered is absolutely fantastic. Age is a number, so going from a non runner 6 months ago to a Marathon finisher is something no-one can take away from you.

Those who are still pondering whether to run their 1st Marathon, I would say GO FOR IT, not going to lie, its not easy and if it was everyone would have run one by now. If you train and commit yourself, you will be a finisher. Good luck to those who have entered, you never know I may see you at that start line in April 2020, something I would never have thought I would ever say again. X

06/04/2019 - Centurion Running South Downs Way

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Race Report by Darren Ryan

The SDW50 is as the name suggests is a 50 mile run across the beautiful South Downs in Sussex. The route takes you from Worthing to Eastbourne bypassing Brighton. I can’t describe it better so here is a description form Centurion website - The South Downs tower over Southern England affording runners awe inspiring views north across the Weald and the coast/ English Channel. All I can say is that is does not disappoint.

I entered this race at some point last year as they are very popular and sell out very quickly. At the time Sarah Watson a fellow Coasties was also running but unfortunately, she had to pull out due to work commitments, so on the start line I was the sole Coasties representative. Fortunately, I had 2 buddies who were also running so all was set for a great day.

I travelled down to the South Coast the night before and stayed in a hotel so didn’t have too early a start and met my friends at Eastbourne. With point-to-point events it’s always a challenge organising transport but as we had two cars we left one at the end and travelled to the start line together. The weather looked nearly ideal, slightly overcast but with a slight head wind.

Registration and the obligatory official kit check were a breeze and soon I had my race number with embedded chip. I was filled with in trepidation and excitement as this was to be only my 3rd attempt at 50 miles or above. I was sure I had packed too much into my race vest, but due to my special diet I cannot eat most of the food at the aid stations so have to carry enough fuel for the race. With a race vest full of the mandatory kit, water bottles, first aid kit (in case of blisters), Raspberry Ruffles, Coconut Macaroons, kitchen sink and a plentiful helping of Tailwind we headed for the start.

The first 6 miles are a stead climb out of Worthing up onto the South Downs, underfoot was a compacted bed of chalk potted with flint, this was the taste of things to come… Once onto the Downs what followed was a collection of runnable flats and downhill sections into valleys followed by some tough steep climbs back up onto the ridges.

Upon reaching the first aid station it was fair to say that I was struggling, I felt tired, my legs were heavy, and I had no energy. I was thinking that perhaps I’d overcooked my training in the weeks leading up to the event. I was really frustrated and annoyed at my body for not coping with what was the first stage of a long race. So much so, that at this point I doubted I’d get to the end. I tried to rationalise the way I was feeling; had I not eaten enough? had I not drank enough? It’s fair to say that I have my own share of medical issues which I was sure were all conspiring on the day to stop me from achieving what I set out to do. This was my lowest point of the race….

It was then I decided to “have a word with myself” and put into practice all the things I’d learnt from the longer races I’d done…. when grumpy eat food… when grumpy drink more…. When grumpy stop being grump… when grumpy look at what I was there for… and that’s what I did.

Over the following 8 hours I ate and ran… and ran and ate, with much drinking of water and Tailwind in-between. I turned around what was a race ending mindset into a race finishing outlook. I focused on the positives and hill by hill a got through those doubts. I still had some managing of issues to do along the way, but I compartmentalised them and concentrated on the end goal, and that was the finish. To pass the time I chatted to a few runners along to way and bumped into a few SVN regulars for good measure.

The aid stations were stocked with food and the most enthusiastic volunteers, who would bow to your every whim, even if that was retrieving food from the bowels of your race vest, whilst still on your back covered in sweat…. Yuk!!! I know, but they obliged ungrudgingly.

And so, I left the final hill behind and all that was left was the decent into Eastbourne. With a renewed vigour and a determination to “get the job done” I was adamant I was going to run all the last section into the finish, and this I did. I picked off 2 runners in the last 4 miles to finish in 10 hours and 6 minutes, which is a new 50-mile PB for me. My previous PB was set on a rather flatter SVN event at Brook Farm and while the same distance there’s a small difference of 4000ft of elevation between the two.

I would thoroughly recommend this event to anyone who wants to do it, there is however a strict 13-hour cut off. If you don’t pass or leave the aid stations on time they will withdraw you from the race. That said, the organisation is impeccable, the atmosphere electric and the sense of achievement at the end is UNBELIEVABLE.

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